Monday, March 30, 2020

Isolation: Day Seventeen

Yesterday was hard. I don't know why. I just hit a wall.

I felt like all I did was usher small, resistant people from one activity to the next, interspersed with nearly constant bouts of cleaning and tidying.

A week and a half ago, we were isolating with another family -- seeing them out at parks and such, never inside -- and now they have up and moved to New Zealand. I've realized she was really my closest friend here. And her kids are my kids' ages. So it's a big loss.

And it feels like the rest of my friend community has evaporated somehow.

And I really, really want to be working right now. I would offer to work for free, except I've had the painful experience of working for free and seeing that people don't value free advice nearly as much as paid.

I am trying to find other ways to contribute but it all feels futile sometimes.

And then Sergio came over yesterday and the kids were thrilled... but then I felt a little neglected. Not so much by him but just, they use up all the oxygen in the room. So I want to find a way to balance that. They are actually pretty chill a lot of the time but when he arrives... they are wild for his attention. Loud and bouncy and totally annoying.

I am feeling a bit better today, thankfully. I've made a list of things that I want to work on this week. I don't know that any of them will benefit someone... but I hope so.

And S and I had an amazing talk last night about all our hopes and dreams... it was pretty magical. And made up for not getting to talk all day. We stayed up far too late but my brain was demanding some adult time, not matter how sleepy my body was.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Being Indispensable Versus Being Taken For Granted... from an SMC Perspective.

I'm not sure I'm really "supposed" to be sharing a conflicts here but since I'm pretty sure no one is reading -- my own fault for never posting -- so I'm breaking the rules.

Sergio, bless his tender heart, has offered that he wants to be "indispensable" to me.

But last week we had a big conflict, and one of the issues he raised is that he felt taken for granted.

And I don't want to place all the blame on him, because I can totally see where he was coming from.

But... I find this concept super confusing as an SMC.

In one of the examples he listed, he came over -- earlier than I expected, though he didn't remember that -- and I had just started working out. In the moment, I thought, "wow, how great is it that I am able to keep doing my workout and know that he understands how critical my workouts are to my sanity? And that I hadn't worked out earlier because I was trying to work while Amelie napped."

But it turns out that he was upset. Partly because he was already upset. And my not stopping my workout really bothered him because it was our last evening together for while. So he felt like he was being taken for granted.

And the reason he was upset before that? He had been planning to stay with us for two weeks when his mother arrived from Mexico City so that she didn't expose us to germs, and vice versa. But then I talked to Calliope about it that morning and she was not at all a fan of that plan. And I worried that her being against the idea, plus him being with us full time for two weeks -- plus the stress of, you know, a global pandemic -- was an awfully big storm for a new relationship to weather. And so I talked to a friend and then decided he shouldn't stay with us. Without consulting him.

He says he was fine with my reasoning but not fine with my deciding without consulting him. And, I think, his feelings were hurt. Although I tried my best to explain, I think what he heard was that I didn't want him with us. Some of that is due to cultural differences -- a Mexican would never imply that a guest should leave, no matter how long they stay -- and part of it is his own sensitivities.

So that sucked. And led to a giant, painful, ugly mess.

Luckily, we eventually recovered but it took a few days and it was painful. We have been talking a lot about the misunderstandings that are inevitable, and how to deal with them. It's not easy. Especially when both people are well established in life middle-aged (am I middle-aged if I'm 45 but have little kids? I feel like middle-aged people are empty-nesters and clearly I am far from that... but my chronological age suggests middle-agedness) and have our routines well established.

How much help are we supposed to accept? How much are we allowed to ask for? Is it taking someone for granted if we say please and thank you while accepting or asking for a lot of help?

This morning I (nervously) asked him if he could watch the kids outside in "our" abandoned parking lot so they could play while I started some laundry. Later, I asked him if that was taking him for granted. And he said no, actually, he felt honored and included to be trusted with them.

I'm so confused!

Later I asked him if he could explain the difference. How can I know when it is okay to ask for help and when is it taking him for granted?

And then he confused me even more by saying he thinks he was wrong to have accused me of that in the first place!

Being an SMC in a new partnership is very confusing. I'm very grateful for the experience but it feels scarily easy to make a misstep.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A few months ago, my therapist (started that a few months ago, too) suggested I consider opening my heart again.

It sounded like a terrible idea. Life as a single person who wasn't looking and was, in fact, pretty adamantly opposed to romantic connection sounded safe. I almost never get hurt when I am single. And I was just recovering from a bout of social anxiety and depression triggered by a supplement my naturopath had suggested. (I'm really not a naturopath person, but she's an excellent clinician and there's a huge lack of them in Mexico.)

But my ex-girlfriend from college was planning to visit. And she always provokes strong reactions in me. We had rekindled.... something... the previous spring when we had a torrid night together in Mexico City.

But the emotions she elicits confuse me, too. It's like trying to look directly at the sun. It's too intense. And we want such different things in life. She needs lots of time alone to write and paint and run, while I thrive on lots and lots of connection (though I need my downtime too). So I wasn't sure what to expect from her visit, and I was worried about feelings of grief when she left.

So Diana encouraged me to open my heart. To get on a dating app. Before Julia arrived. And I reluctantly agreed, because I trust Diana.

Julia's visit came and went. It was amazing to see her, and totally confusing too, in all the same ways. We decided not to have a physical relationship. It felt good to have those boundaries. Trusting my intuition -- that this relationship can't thrive as a romance -- and not listening to lust. After she left, I was very grateful about how things went.

And then I fell for someone totally inappropriate. Someone from our very small community here in Mexico. Someone who couldn't be more different than me -- Mexican, non-English speaking, working class and.... partnered.

I don't feel good about that. Didn't feel good about that.

I was caught off guard. And I know she knew what was going on. And acted as if she didn't mind. But it wasn't like we were openly communicating about it. And more to the point, it wasn't at all what I wanted.

So after two months, I ended it. With great sadness. For all that he was all wrong for me, it was a beautiful gift to feel love again after six years of being single. And he loved my kids. Which was a new and startlingly beautiful experience for me.

But I knew it was the only possible way.

After a month of grieving -- I was shocked by the depths of my sadness -- I started going on internet dates. I went on three dates. And then I met Sergio.

He said he knew in five minutes. I didn't. But he seemed nice, and I looked forward to going out again.

We met again a few days ago. Far from my home, after a scary experience in a car with another date.

I was nervous. When I spotted him, his face lit up with a smile. Mine too.

And my brain went completely empty. I had absolutely nothing to say. Nada.

Luckily, he didn't seem to notice. He was cheerfully chatty as he led me through the crowded streets of Centro to a romantic rooftop terrace restaurant.

He drew me out of my stupor with wonderfully romantic questions. I can't remember them now but I remember that I was charmed. We talked for hours. He was careful not to make any advances, trying to keep from scaring me. I finally took his hand and he stroked mine for ages.

After we finally left the restaurant, he led me on a romantic moonlit stroll to secret gardens scattered around Centro.

When it was time to go home to relieve the sitter, I refused his offer of a ride and hailed a cab. And drew him toward me for a kiss... what turned out to be the best first kiss of my life.

I want to share more of that story... but for now, nearly two months in, we are settling into a surprising partnership.

Despite my plans to wait six months to introduce him to my kids -- the best laid plans, eh? -- I only waited a few weeks. It seemed crazy to wait because what if the meeting was disastrous? Better to know sooner rather than later.

But it went better than I could have imagined. He fell in love with my kids and the feeling seemed mutual, at least with Amelie. Calliope is more cautious, as is her way, but is clearly relishing all the love and affection and especially, the roughhousing.

And now here we are, falling in love in the age of coronavirus. What an unexpected challenge for a new relationship. I am praying we can withstand the storm.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sleep Consultant In Training

I am nearing the end of my four-month course to become a pediatric sleep consultant and I'm so excited! I'm studying with the Family Sleep Institute and it's no small project to get certified. But it's so exciting to be learning something new, complementary but different than what I used to do, after thirteen years in my old job as a school based pediatric nurse practitioner.

It also feels very strange to be a newbie again.

I have to do three case studies, helping families with children of varying ages. But I ended up accepting four families so that I could get as much experience as I could. I created a Google form -- I never knew such a thing existed -- and got eight responses from families interested in a pro-bono sleep consultation. I completed my first intake nine days ago, my only in-person one (required by the program to do at least one in person). I can see now that I did so many things wrong. I got way too bogged down in the nitty gritty and didn't do enough motivational interviewing, getting the family psyched up.

Yet to my amazement, this 2y11m old child is night-weaned and on her way to sleeping in her own bed all night long! I feel like I got very lucky with this first case but it has built my confidence tremendously and now I've intentionally picked a particularly challenging case to work on while I still have lots of support from classmates and instructors.

I'm hoping to finish my case studies before we leave Mexico for the States in late June though it's not due until mid July. But I feel like it will be too hard to be consistently productive while we are on the road.

Realistically, I doubt I'll do much with it over the summer unless folks initiate contact with me, but as soon as the girls go back to school at the end of August, I plan to throw myself into learning all the aspects of running my own business. Including marketing myself. Gulp. I hope to especially target sleep deprived SMCs because I know what it's like to be doing this alone, without family help, and how frustrating it is to be advised to "hand the baby to Dad and go to bed early!"

In an ideal world, I would love to combine this work with a couple of days, or even half days, of clinical work, keeping my hand in the water with pediatrics too, just in case. But working in Mexico is tricky, where nurse practitioner licenses aren't recognized. I have a lead on a job but I'm just not sure I want to pursue it. Or if I should prioritize this business.

But it's exciting to feel busier and more focused!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

April 2019 Recap

April was great!

The girls had two weeks of spring break. On Thursday of the first week, we took the fancy first class bus ($20 for me, $10 for each of the girls) to Mexico City, about a four-hour ride. The first class buses here are so much nicer than the Greyhounds back home -- the seats are huge and lean way back and the leg area lifts up. Super comfy!

Our dear friends from Brooklyn, Emily and Annabelle, who lived a floor below us for as long as my girls can remember, met us in Mexico City the next day. We had such a great time! I love Mexico City. It has more history than any other city in North America, founded in 1324. There are Aztec ruins right in the city center. There's also great public transportation, but better than in NYC, clean and quiet.

We went to the children's museum, the city park Chapultapec (larger than Central Park!), the zoo, the museum of popular art, a great Asian fusion restaurant (good sushi at last, ahhhh), a local playground (awesome), the city square (largest in the world) and lots of Mexican restaurants, of course.

Then our friends traveled back to San Miguel with us for a few days. It was wonderful to have them here. They were great guests and Annabelle and Calliope, despite their age difference of 3.5 years, love to recharge in exactly the same way, drawing, playing with American Girl dolls, and listening to Whatever After books. It was a little harder with Amelie but we were mostly able to keep her entertained.

They only had three days here so I decided not to try to pack in too much as that backfired on me the last time we had visitors -- Calliope got exhausted and cranky. So we went to the hot springs, bounced point balloons in Centro, went out for tacos, went swimming in a hotel pool, visited an artisan market, and went out to eat only once, I think.

We also had a very Mexican Passover Seder, complete with tacos and matzah!

In other news, I am chugging along in a four month sleep consultant training program. I am hoping to start a pediatric sleep consultant business in the fall, mostly targeting Brooklyn customers but open to Mexican clientele as well.

I was volunteering at a women's clinic called CASA here with some OB nurses and midwives which was great. I got to see a few beautiful births. And last weekend I met with the founder and suggested they consider offering pediatric care -- offered by me and supported by a family medicine doctor since Mexico doesn't recgonize NPs -- at the clinic and she is open to the idea. So we shall see what happens with that.

I also had an interview last month with a medical concierge service last month and they said they are interested in having me start working with them in June. I'm not convinced they want me because they are geriatric-focused and I have no geriatric experience beyond my own parents, but it's a possibility.

But it's good to have options! I'm most excited about starting a business on my own but I'd love to keep my hand in clinical care as well, in case I ever want to return to it in the States but also because I find it so rewarding. Whatever I choose -- and I'm hoping for a mix -- I want to keep my hours manageable so that I have time for myself and am also mostly able to meet the girls when they get off the school van.

No further communication from J and I am okay with that. She had expressed interest in coming for Dia De Los Muertos so I am curious to see if she does... but I am fine either way. I have no expectations, which feels good.

And I'm still doing keto, not perfectly, and some fasting. Mostly 20:4 fasting (fast for 20 hours, feast for 4 hours) but I am still recovering from spring break indulgences. The intermittent fasting helped minimize the damage, though, which was great. I got down to within 2 pounds of my goal, very briefly, but now I'm up to 9 pounds above goal again. If I can just stay consistent it'll happen!

The cool thing is that I didn't have any PMS last month and my skin has improved a ton from keto. I also have lost some cellulite from the underside of my thigh that I never thought would budge. Once I get to my goal weight I would love to try some black coffee (or green tea) and water only fasts to try for autophagy -- cell repair -- to lower my risk of health risks like cancer. But I feel like I can only focus on one goal at a time.
We head back to Brooklyn in just two short months! We'll be there (and in Vermont and Massachusetts) for five weeks before we return to Mexico to renew our visas. So many great things to look forward to!
My friend Tereza organized a Women's Hike for her birthday. Such a treat to be out during
the day without kids -- walking at an adult pace -- in daylight!

Gorgeous vistas

Calliope's class after their performance of "Los Ninos Del Bosque" (The Children of the Forest)

Cute short haircut

Feeling sexy and strong

Mamas' Night Out (every Sat night!)

Making matzaballs with my best kitchen helper (conveniently keeping her out of the way of the big girls)

Our beloved Annabelle, chopping parsley for the Seder and looking like Frida Kahlo

With her two best pals at school 

Running with a pointy balloon, wearing her new shirt from Emily and Annabelle

Some of our other new, great pals: Brody and twins, Emily and Allison. 

Amelie and Brody have a special connection

Mamas' night out at Bovine -- three out of four of us are SMCs.

Dinosaur hatchlings at Papalote, the Children's Museum of Mexico City

Eating authentic churros and chocolate in Mexico City

Girls' first time at a sushi bar. I was SO happy.

Amelie likes sushi, hooray!

The girls in the zocalo in Mexico City, the largest city center in the world

Cushy first class bus seats have room for two girls in them. If you're wondering why only
Amelie is wearing headphones... they aren't plugged in!

A Very Mexican Passover Seder, complete with corn tortillas, refried beans, matzah and charoset

Swimming at the hot springs

Swimming at a local hotel pool -- hot spring weather means lots of time swimming

My big kid likes to sit by herself on city buses

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Romantic Night in Mexico City

About a month ago, I went to Mexico City to see a good friend of mine, J, who is also an ex-girlfriend from college. Last time I saw her, perhaps two years prior, she had just left her marriage of seventeen years. She had felt distant and emotionally detached in the all the years of marriage and I was shocked to feel all my feelings for her come flooding back at that last visit. But given how recent the break-up was, and how raw she described herself as feeling -- despite her seeming more like herself than she had been in many years -- I didn't dare breathe a word of my feelings to her. I avoided eye contact and watched her play on the floor with Calliope as baby Amelie crawled around us.

Still, I thought about her for months afterward. I was careful to only initiate contact once, and then only to respond after she did.

Then this fall, she asked to come visit... but subsequently canceled. Then this winter she emailed again, asking if I had a night to spare while she was in Mexico City. I offered to leave the girls at home with a sitter and meet her there. She sprang for the hotel room. I had no idea what to expect but was feeling self-protective.

We had a wonderful time! We went to see Frida Kahlo's house and were the very last visitors of the day. I had forgotten how wonderful appreciative J is of the smallest moments and experiences. We went for tostadas afterwards, then sat on a street bench in the brighly lit darkness and sipped coffee and caught up on our lives.

It was in a taxi on the way back to the hotel that Julia referred to our previous visit and I thoughtlessly replied, "I thought about you a lot after our last visit."

"Oh yeah? What were you thinking?"

Crap. I felt cornered. I was terrified of sharing my feelings and having her be horrified or worse, hurt somehow by them.

But then J's hand slid across the seat of the taxi and into mine. And so I awkwardly stammered something about "always having a J-shaped place in my heart."

She squeezed my hand and laughed and said, "perhaps we could agree that what happens in Mexico City stays in Mexico City?"

Later, back at the hotel, we talked more seriously about it. She said she would love to have an intimate evening together and cares a lot about me but knows she doesn't want a long distance relationship. She wanted to make sure I was okay with that.

I tried to be really honest with myself and check in deeply and I felt like I was.

So we had a lovely night together. In the morning we got up very early and wandered around the empty city square, hand in hand. I loved that she held my hand so firmly.

After I headed to the bus station to catch my bus, I texted her that I had made it. And again when I got home. And again a photo of my kids enjoying the gifts she had brought for them. I didn't hear back from her for another week. Which felt really hard.

She, meanwhile, had met up with a dear friend and headed out the next day to a remote island off the Yucatan coast for a weeklong writers' conference. And she's not much of a technology person. But I was taken aback by her delayed response.

Since then, we've emailed a few times. She had invited me to join her on a medical mission next month but the dates don't work for me. I had suggested trying to visit her in her house in New Englad this summer but the dates don't work for her. She said she will try again to visit us in Mexico, perhaps for Dia de Los Muertos.

Our last correspondence was an email from me. She hasn't responded. In her first email she had said she might send me some writing she did about our visit but she hasn't followed through. I am questioning if I somehow pushed too hard.

I don't feel like I'm looking for a relationship, but perhaps I'm not being honest with myself? I miss her company and I wish I could talk to her more often. Being together felt like being intimate with a best friend. I crave her friendship... but maybe physical intimacy plus a beautiful friendship is the same thing as a romantic relationship?

Regardless, it seems obvious that that is not what she wants or needs right now, so I am trying hard to come to peace with that in my heart. I'm certainly not reaching out to her, but I wish that I didn't want contact. I feel like in relationships in the past, I wanted too much and was too controlling. So I am trying to use this an opportunity to let go of any thoughts of control. Perhaps one day we will be closer. I can see that there is nothing I can do right now to make that happen besides letting go and letting it be.

Friday, February 8, 2019

What's Hard About Life in Mexico (For Me)

Life in Mexico is pretty incredible, really. I actually feel like I have too much time (and too little money) on my hands which is mostly pretty luxurious, at least for the short term. The weather is incredible -- lately it swings from low forties to high seventies or even warmer each day. People are incredibly friendly. It's required to say "Buenas dias!" and pause before starting any business transaction, and to kiss on the cheek any acquaintance you encounter in the street. The girls seem to be thriving at school and Calliope, especially, is loving all the downtime at home in the afternoons to draw and play and create. Amelie seems content too, although she's always had plenty of downtime!

But the thing that is hard? My friends. My two best friends in particular, Amy and Emily. There is a lovely community of expats here that I am meeting and getting to know. Folks are warm and friendly. I just left our Friday morning coffee group. Saturday nights I go out with fellow SMCs Sarah and Jackie and often a couple of other friends, included at random. Sunday mornings we meet neighborhood friends in the park for bike riding and play structure climbing. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons we go to the taco place with the indoor play space with friends for an easy dinner.

These friendships are gradually growing stronger. This week, my friend and neighbor Anna picked up my girls from the bus stop and delivered them home when I wasn't feeling well. That night I kept her son so she and her husband could go out for a birthday dinner. And tomorrow my friend Pamela and I are sharing a sitter so our big girls can stay home, the little ones can go to a birthday party, and she can work. These two arrangements are the first time I've really shared the work of childcare with other families and I hope these will continue happening.

But I so miss the shared childrearing I missed with Amy and Emily. Amy and I shared nannies for seven years for our four children. We saw them every single weekend, sometimes multiple times a weekend, and shared afterschool care when our big girls outgrew the nanny. It was a given that we would have Shabbat dinner on Friday nights and carpool for ice skating lessons.

Emily and I lived in the same building the last few years. We rode the subway together most mornings. When she had a date, her daughter stayed over. We had breakfast together every weekend. If I had a stomach ache, she went out for medication. When she had the flu, I delivered hot oatmeal and Vitamin Water.

I'm missing my best friends. And more than that, selfishly, I'm missing having a best friend.

I'm so thrilled that Amy and her kids arrive for a visit in one short week. I'm breathlessly scheduling our every waking moment to maximize the deliciousness of time together. The girls are likewise exuberant in their excitement to see these children who are practically their siblings.
Best pals Rachel, me, Amy, Emily and Elizabeth celebrating of my last nights in town.